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Miss Brill

In: English and Literature

Submitted By contrc
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In "Miss Brill," Katherine Mansfield portrays a lonely and sensitive woman who finds Sundays very enjoyable and comforting. She tends to go out to the park on those particular days and observe all of the people out there. She’s very interested in the lives of others and enjoys being part of their lives for only moments long just by eavesdropping on their conversations or arguments. This could be due to the possibility of her life being dull and lacking excitement. She tends to temporarily escape her realities by drifting off and joining the realities of other individuals. In order for us to really understand Miss Brill we need to look her closely as a character.
Miss Brill is portrayed as an elderly woman whom is happy and satisfied with her life. On Sundays she enjoys taking walks in the park where she watches and observes other people and momentarily takes a step and participates in their lives. Of the title the character, Miss Brill, Mansfield tell us, “Only two people shared her “special” seat a fine old man in a velvet coat, his hands clasped over a huge carved walking- stick, and a big old woman, sitting upright, with a roll of knitting on her embroidered apron.” (72). She refers to a special seat in the park where she always sits to observe every detail, every move that people does, pretending that is part of the play. When Miss Brill was in the park she said she felt as if she and everyone else were all part of a “play”. She also likes to listen in on the conversations or arguments of others. One literary scholar Peltier Robert related that “It is at this moment of epiphany, when she feels a connection to the world that a young couple arrives and sits on the bench. Miss Brill casts them immediately as the hero and heroine of her drama.” (Peltier, PAR.13). Miss Brill likes to believe that her life is joyful and comforting; however when she is insulted by a complete stranger, she is then deeply hurt and her view and aspect on life is drastically affected. During these negative and uncomfortable moments, Miss Brill develops feelings of loneliness and unhappiness, and she is then forced out of her comfort zone and is forced into her own reality.

In reality, Miss Brill doesn’t take part in anything. She only sits by herself on a bench while wearing her old fur and watches the people in the park around her, as if it were a television show. She sees other people sitting on benches and strolling through the park day after day and she thinks of them as being “funny, odd and silent. Almost all of them seemed as if they just appeared from little rooms.” She doesn’t like to see herself as one of them; one of the dull “normal” who just appear and sit on the bench. No, she’d rather create little fantasy worlds where she can escape her lonely world and reality. Even though she perceives the world in her own creative way, there is still even the slightest possibility of the dangers of negativity suddenly reoccurring in her mind and disrupting her world of endless imagination. Miss Brill comes across a boy and a girl engaged in conversation and decides to invite them into her fictional world.

However, when she starts to eavesdrop in on their conversation, Miss Brill overhears the boy insulting her. Once overhearing the insults, Miss Brill is snatched out of her comfortable imagination and her world is suddenly blanketed in darkness in a mere instant. Miss Brill is awakened and brought back into her reality where she is forced to face the unhappy circumstances of her life. Miss Brill’s world just crumbled before her very own eyes. She sadly walks home passing by everything that she normally looked forward to after her days at the park. She sits down on her bed and places her lovely fur into its lonely, dusty box and begins to sob.

Works Cited

Mansfield, Katherine. “Miss Brill.” Backpack Literature. Ed. X.J Kennedy and Dana Gioia.
Boston: Longman, 2010. 71-75. Print.

Peltier, Robert. "An overview of “Miss Brill”." Short Stories for Students. Detroit: Gale, 2002. Literature Resources from Gale. Web. 21 July 2011.

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